I forget how short Black Lightning’s seasons are. The rest of the CW DC shows are just getting their second halves going and we’re already at the season finale over here. It explains why so many early season episodes tried to tell every story all at once. Seeing how Season 3 turned out, it makes me wish it had a few more episodes to get through it all. We started with Freeland as a police state, built up Painkiller and Odell as villains… then we swerved into Lynn’s addiction for a bit, and now Gravedigger’s the big bad. Now we’re at the end with few of those stories feeling properly resolved. I love Wayne Brady as Gravedigger, but how much better would he be with a full season’s build up? The reveal that he’s Jefferson’s great uncle might have actually meant something.
As for the ASA police state, even that resolution feels a bit rushed here. With the Markovians invading the city, they’ve cleared the streets. They’re evacuating their people and their data without regard for the people the Markovians are slaughtering. There’s a lot of dramatic potential there, but the show doesn’t have time to capitalize on it. For a show that constantly reinforces the importance of the city and the community, we don’t often get to see the reactions of the people in it. Here, Odell sends Major Grey to retrieve his briefcase. She tracks down Lady Eve who gives over the information in exchange for guaranteed safety. When Grey mentions a relocation to Gotham, Eve realizes their plan is to nuke Freeland once the Markovians take over. She also realizes that knowledge makes her a loose end. Her men get into a shootout with the ASA, but she takes a bullet. Man, I hope they didn’t bring Jill Scott back just to kill her again.
Despite problems with the overall season structure, Black Lightning does manage to build an exciting finale out of all this. What’s made these last few episodes so good is that the show mostly whittled down its extraneous plotlines to focus on building to this finale. That means some stories went nowhere, but it made for a better final episode. The episode begins with the battle between Gravedigger and Black Lightning that last week’s episode teased. Black Lightning’s attacks don’t seem to phase Gravedigger at all. Meanwhile, Gravedigger pulls out some microwave powers to cook Black Lightning from the inside. Black Lightning survives by absorbing as much nearby electricity as he can, and blasting Gravedigger into an electric sign. It’s an awesome way to start an episode. Then Gravedigger reveals he had his men Kidnap Jenn during the fight, and Jefferson flies off to figure out how to save her.
What makes this finale so fun, aside from an awesome villain, is that it throws everything at the Pierce family all at once. Major Grey is after the briefcase Gambi has. Commander Williams is out to destroy all classified ASA information, and that includes what’s in Dr. Jace’s and Lynn’s heads. If that wasn’t enough, Painkiller is back in control of Khalil’s body, and is targeting the Pierce family. All that allows the episode to fill itself with fun surprises. Painkiller is about to take down Jenn, which enrages the real Khalil enough to re-take control of his body. Lady Eve warns Lala about the ASA’s plan to nuke the city if Markovia takes it, meaning Lala has a reason to fight the Markovians. He ends up teaming up with Henderson’s resistance to take them down. (Man, I really wish we’d seen more of them this season.) Lynn might have the most fun surprise. After killing Dr. Jace, Williams finds Lynn trying to make a serum to take away Gravedigger’s powers. He tries to shoot her only to find that she’s given herself invulnerability. Also, a seriously strong punch. I like superhero Lynn.
Back to Henderson though, after this episode, I really wished we got more of him this season. His and Jefferson’s relationship led to a lot of great drama over the last three years. Whenever the show wanted to debate morality or methods or cops vs. vigilantes, they had some really interesting arguments. Now, after he guns down some Markovian soldiers about to snipe Jefferson and Jenn, he takes a shot to the chest. Jefferson holds him as he bleeds out, and it’s a genuinely sad and affecting scene. I knew the actor was leaving the series after this season, but I didn’t want it to be this way. I liked Henderson and I’m sad to see his story end this way.
While that was going on, Anissa and Grace led the metahumans into an ASA saferoom, with Gravedigger close behind. They got all the metas to safety, and turned around to face Gravedigger himself. Here’s where I feel we were robbed. Grace and Anissa square up against Gravedigger, and I’m hyped to see a shapeshifter and Thunder in action. But we don’t get to. Gravedigger uses his command power to order Grace to kill Anissa. Anissa ends up putting her girlfriend in a coma to stop the fight. And to start setting up next season’s storylines. We’re losing all the good characters tonight.
Despite being cheated out of one really good Gravedigger fight, the actual main event is extremely cool. Jenn and Brandon team up to create volcanic lighting that will break through Gravedigger’s magnetic shield. They basically spray him with a firehose of lava. It’s awesome. Gravedigger fights back with lasers though, and knocks them down. That’s when Jefferson runs through Gravedigger as fast as he can. We get a thrilling, well-choreographed martial arts battle, which gives Lynn just enough time to shoot Gravedigger with a dart that takes away his powers. It’s such a satisfying end to the battle when Gravedigger taunts her with “you should have gone for the head” before Black Lightning lays him out.
Defeating the big supervillain isn’t the end of the season, though. The ASA facility self destructs. Black Lightning and his family escape, but they leave Gravedigger behind. Normally that’d be the end of things. But the show remembered it had to wrap up the ASA story too. Major Grey and her soldiers raid Gambi’s shop, and we get a surprisingly fun shootout. Gambi and TC fight off the ASA and retain the briefcase, which becomes very important in the show’s epilogue.
The ASA turning Freeland into a police state was a great idea. It had so much potential at the beginning of the season. It never got to do much with it, though. The season decided too late to make the Markovians and Gravedigger the ultimate bad guys, which really made the ASA stuff not matter. Still, the episode had to put a bow on that story before the season ended. Black Lightning, Thunder, and Lightning testify in front of a government committee. The provide the briefcase as proof of the ASA’s experimentation on metahumans. The judges shut down the ASA the following day. Hopefully this means we won’t have to deal with them dragging down another season.
Black Lightning’s third season had a lot of promise at the outset, then got lost somewhere in the middle. Fortunately, the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” event invigorated the midpoint, and it came back a much more focused show. It gave us an incredible villain, who I can’t wait to see again next season. Yeah, despite all appearances, Gravedigger is still alive. The final shot of the episode is a suspicious looking man walking out of the courtroom, then deactivating his disguise. Gravedigger’s going back to Freeland next season. And so will Tobias Whale. Now that could make for some great TV.
Black Lightning aired Mondays at 9 p.m. on The CW
Previously on Black Lightning: